The Redemption of Jews and Gentiles foreshadowed in Ruth

The story of Ruth and Naomi is a beautiful picture of our redemption. It is the story of the grace and mercy of our Redeemer to both Ruth, the Moabite, who was far off and to Naomi, the Jewess, who was near but who had strayed from under the wings of the protection of her God. It is the story of Jew and Gentile coming together in one family, through the blood relative, the kinsman-Redeemer of Israel.

Ancient Racial Tensions

The story must be seen against the backdrop of racial tension and hostility. Much of the racial tension in the world today has its roots in ancient hostilities. Ezekiel refers to the “ancient hatred” of Mt. Seir against Israel which can be traced all the way back to the rivalry between Jacob and Esau. When Israel took possession of the land of Canaan the nations living there were forcibly displaced, which was undeniably an act of God’s judgment against them for their sin.

The Israelites were warned “Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live.” They were also warned that if they disobeyed the Lord and defiled the land, “it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you” (Leviticus 18:28).

The world has strived to achieve unity since the Tower of Babel, but the unity that the world desires is in rebellion to God. Nevertheless, the LORD does have His own plan by which He is able to bring peace and unity to all nations.

Ruth was a Moabite!

It is important to understand the implications of Ruth being a Moabite. Racial differences and hostilities are passed down through many generations. Ruth belonged to a people who had tried to put a curse on the Israelites. The LORD promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation and that through him all nations would be blessed. Balak, King of Moab, was terrified by the Israelites so he summoned Balaam to come and curse them, but Balaam said: “How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the LORD has not denounced? …I see a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations (i.e. gentiles).” Balaam was unable to curse the Israelites, but instead he taught the Moabite women to seduce them by enticing them to commit sexual immorality and to participate in their pagan festivals where they offered sacrifices to their gods. As a result the Moabites were excluded from entering the assembly of the LORD:

No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you. However, the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you. (Deut.23:3-5)

We learn from the book of Ezra that after the return from the Babylonian exile the people of Israel were not keeping themselves separate from the other nations. ( Ezra ch. 9).

Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. Now make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives: (Ezra 10:10-11)

It is important to note that the Torah does not encourage racial pride, but rather faithfulness to the God of Israel. Boaz married a Moabite woman and Moses married a Cushite. The LORD was opposed to intermarriage in as much as it threatened to entice his people to follow the detestable practices of the nations and to worship their false gods. Those who were excluded from the assembly of Israel were excluded because of their pagan practices and idolatry. The Torah makes provision for Israelites to take foreign women as their wives through a process of conversion. This process involved dying to their former life and effectively mourning their family and fully embracing the God of Israel and the people of Israel.
“When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife” (Deut. 21:10-13.)

Those who come to faith in Jesus are required to go through a similar process of putting off the old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires and to put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:23). They are to count themselves dead to their former way of life.

Sojourners in the world

The story of Ruth takes place during the period of the judges of which it is written “in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 17:6) Some commentators have suggested that Elimelech, who was a man of wealth and standing in Judah, sinned by leaving the land of Israel in a time of difficulty in order to preserve his own family without considering the plight of others in the land. Elimelech, whose name means, “the LORD is my King,” was a wealthy man from the tribe of Judah. There was a famine in the land of Israel and Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, went to sojourn through the fields of Moab. However, what was intended to be a temporary sojourn turned into permanent residence as they settled in Moab for a period of about ten years and married Moabite women.

We are all sojourners in this world This world is not our final destination or place of rest and we must not become too settled or too attached to the things of this world. King David acknowledged this before the LORD, “We are aliens and strangers (sojourners) in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” (2 Chronicles 29:15)

The writer to the Hebrews speaks in similar terms of the faithfulness of the patriarchs: “And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth . . . Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13,16)

Famine of the word

The LORD spoke through the prophet Amos:

“The days are coming when 1 will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. In that day the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst.” (Amos 8:11)

“Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut. 8:3).

The last prophet to speak to Israel, between 500 – 400 BC, told us that the next prophet to come would be the forerunner of the Messiah himself. That prophet has already come to Israel. The name “John” means “preceding” and Jesus said, “if you are willing to accept it, he [John the Baptist] is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Just as Elimelech went to sojourn in the fields of Moab during a period of famine in Israel, many Israelites have for generations not heard the word of God, and have strayed from the shelter of the God of Israel. Elimelech figuratively represents those who are cut off because they wandered off into the fields of Moab during the famine of hearing the word of the LORD. Instead of waiting upon the LORD, they choose to glean from the hollow and deceptive philosophies of the world. The Jews were entrusted with the sacred Scriptures and were called to be a light to the nations by pointing them to the greater light of the world, the Messiah, but “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4)

The LORD spoke through the prophet Isaiah:

“Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. ‘Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

If the people of God wander too far and settle permanently in the world, they may die there without ever hearing the Good News that the LORD has sent the Bread of Life to his people. Elimelech and his sons, Mahlon and Kilion, died in their sins far from the promises and provision of God. Only Naomi (a remnant) survived to hear the Good News of the Lord’s provision. The LORD said. “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:6)

Naomi is a picture of Israel in exile – widowed and destitute, having lost both husband and sons and therefore her posterity, and having become dependant on the kindness of foreigners. Broken and humbled she needs to find her way back to God.

This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be cut off nor destroyed from before me.” (Isaiah 48:17-19)

Speaking of the messianic age and the return of the people to Zion, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

“A highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; . . . But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will. return.” (Isaiah 35:8-9)

As Naomi and Ruth learnt, it is impossible for those who have lost everything during a period of famine, to redeem themselves. They had to appeal to their Kinsman-Redeemer. Who are the redeemed people of God? What did Isaiah mean when he said, “It will be for those who walk in that Way?” The early disciples of Jesus were known as “followers of the Way.” Jesus is the Way back to God!

Naomi heard the Good News

“When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.” (Ruth 1:6-7)

Naomi not only heard the good news, but responded by making plans to return to the place of God’s provision. The famine of hearing the word of the LORD has ended but many have remained in spiritual exile and have not yet heard or responded in faith to the Good News. As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Messiah. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:15-18)

The test of faithfulness

When Naomi prepares to return, she tries to dissuade her daughters-in-law from returning with her to Judah. We can therefore assume that when Mahlon took Ruth as his wife she had not converted according to the requirement of the Torah, for if she had Naomi would not have encouraged her to return to the worship of her gods.

For ten years Naomi had lived as a stranger in a foreign land and she did not want her daughters-in-law to have to endure the difficulties of living as strangers in a foreign land in which the very law imposed a restriction upon the acceptance of Moabites. Along with the difficulties of adjusting to a culture that was unique among the nations was the very real possibility that they would be ostracized and discriminated against as foreigners. At Naomi’s urging Orpah returns to her people and her gods, but Ruth clings to Naomi.

Orpah is a type of the nominal Christian, whose faithfulness does not endure in the face of difficulties. Her attachment to the God of Israel was shallow as was her commitment to the people of God. Although she had probably imbibed some of the teachings she had not left her own pagan culture and worship of other gods behind. She was comfortable with an unholy mixture.

Ruth however, resolves to give up everything to serve the one true God and accompanies Naomi all the way back to the House of Bread and the Redeemer. Her conversion is the true conversion of the heart which will endure even to death.

The cost of disobedience

Naomi, whose name means ‘my pleasantness,’ left the land of Israel with plenty, but returned destitute and in humility. Her tragic circumstances forced her to throw off all pretenses and she acknowledges that she has come under God’s punishment.

When she returns the people barely recognise her. “Can this be Naomi?” they ask, meaning “Can this be the one with the sunny disposition who left with so much but has returned broken and empty?” Even Naomi says, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty, Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

Elimelech and Naomi had left hoping to preserve their wealth, but had lost everything. She returns empty, humbled by circumstances, but ready to receive her Redeemer. Jesus said: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”(Matthew 16:25)

The House of Bread

Ruth and Naomi return at the time of the barley harvest to the town of Bethlehem which means “house of bread”. The Lord our provider set forth in the Torah the ideal social structure to provide for the poor so that they would never have to resort to stealing in order to satisfy their most basic needs.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev.19:9-10)

The tendency in the world today is to be motivated by selfish ambition and greed. The New Testament teaching equates greed with idolatry (Co1.3:5). Jesus said: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Boaz typifies the abundance of God’s provision which has been revealed in Jesus the Messiah. Boaz instructs his young men to purposefully pull out some bundles for Ruth to glean and to also allow her to glean even from among the sheaves.

The Soncino makes the following commentary:

“This was far beyond the dictates of ordinary kindliness. When our cup runs over, observes a moralist, we let others drink the drops that fall, but not a drop from within the rim, and call it charity; when the crumbs are swept from the table, we think it generous to let the dogs eat them: as if that were charity which permits others to have what we cannot keep; which says to Ruth, ‘Glean after the young men,’ but forgets to say to the young men, ‘Pull out some for her on purpose.’”

In fact Ruth, having expected hostility as a foreigner, is deeply moved and bows with her face to the ground in humble gratitude at the generosity shown to her by Boaz: “Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?” The Good News for Ruth, which remains true for all times, is that those who sow kindness also reap kindness.

Ruth, too, demonstrates her unselfish devotion to Naomi by sparing her the humiliation of having to go out and glean with the poor. When Boaz tells her to stay with his servant girls she is content to remain in the place of God’s safety and provision and is not enticed to run after the younger, wealthy men.

Jesus, like Boaz, does not appeal to our worldly desires – “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Is.53:2). We must remain in Him where we can bear much fruit for apart from Him we can do nothing. (Jn. 15:4) We are to depend on Him alone for our sustenance and must not look to the world for comfort. It was no coincidence that the Messiah and Redeemer, the One who would break the famine of hearing the words of the LORD, would be born in the town of Bethlehem.

Jesus said to them,

“I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world”. “Sir, they said, ‘from now on give us this bread. “ Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe…

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:32-51)

The process of Redemption

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6)

The very concept of redemption is that everyone who trusts in the Messiah and Redeemer will never be put to shame. This concept, of sparing the shame of a fellow Israelite, was embodied in the Torah. The Israelites belong to the LORD and if a person became enslaved through poverty and misfortune, the Torah provided the means by which they could be redeemed by a close family member. If they were not redeemed, they were to be released in the Year of Jubilee.

“If an alien or a temporary resident among you becomes rich and one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself to the alien living among you or to a member of the alien’s clan, he retains the right of redemption after he has sold himself. One of his relatives may redeem him: An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in his clan may redeem him. Or if he prospers, he may redeem himself. He and his buyer are to count the time from the year he sold himself up to the Year of Jubilee. The price for his release is to be based on the rate paid to a hired man for that number of years . . . . Even if he is not redeemed in any of these ways, he and his children are to be released in the Year of Jubilee, for the Israelites belong to me as servants. They are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 25:47-54)

Apart from the provision to redeem Israelites from slavery, the law also provided for the continuation of the family line to protect the inheritance in the event of a man dying without an heir. The prosperity of the people of God was not only measured by their worldly possessions – it was far more important that there always be an heir to continue the family name for posterity and to provide continued security and shelter for their parents in their old age. Preserving the family name was of such importance that if a brother died without having produced an heir the surviving brother was expected to marry his brother’s widow and father a son on behalf of the deceased.

If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me. “ Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him: If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her, his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled (Deut. 25:5-10).

Jesus our kinsman-redeemer was subjected to the humiliation of being beaten and spat upon by those who mockingly said to him “prophesy to us Messiah, who hit you?” The people were awaiting a Messiah whom they thought would redeem them from Roman oppression, not from their slavery to sin. He was treated with the gesture of contempt reserved for one who was unwilling to redeem.

After Ruth has been gleaning in Boaz’s field for about three months, Naomi urges her to appeal to his duty to redeem a close relative. Ruth goes to Boaz at the threshing floor although he is a wealthy landowner he is to be found working alongside his servants. In like manner Jesus put aside his heavenly glory and “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!” (Ph. 2:7-8).

Ruth approaches him quietly and lies down at his feet in a gesture of humility. Her appeal is to his mercy and kindness rather than to the right of redemption. This reminds us of the woman who poured perfume on the feet of Jesus as she wept, appealing to nothing but his mercy and forgiveness: When we come to Jesus, we come with nothing to commend us and no basis to demand anything of Him, but we come with the quiet assurance of faith in His promise that “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37)

Boaz does not delay in settling the matter. When we know what the Lord requires of us we must not put it off.

It is evident from the story of Judah and Tamar that the obligation to continue the family line existed even before the Torah was given through Moses at Mount Sinai:

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Lie with your brother’s wife and full your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother (Genesis 38:6-9).

The narrative goes on to describe how Onan also dies and how Tamar tricks Judah into sleeping with her in order to conceive an heir, by posing as a prostitute. When her pregnancy is discovered Judah is ready to have her burned to death until he realises that she is pregnant by him. Just as Judah was quick to judge Tamar and have her condemned only to find his own guilt exposed, Paul teaches that those who condemn others for breaking the law end up condemning themselves.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 2:1).

It is interesting to note that there are exactly ten generations from Perez, who was born of a forbidden union between Judah and Tamar, to David. Although it was always stipulated that Judah was the royal line the first King came from Benjamin because the king could not emerge from Judah until ten generations had passed:

“No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation” (Deut. 23:2).

The nearer Kinsman-Redeemer

The question is often asked, “if Boaz is a type of the Messiah, our kinsman redeemer, then what does the nearer kinsman-redeemer, represent?” Some have suggested that it is the Torah: “the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. “ (Deut. 30:14). If anyone could live in perfect obedience to the Torah they would gain life, but everyone falls short (sins) and the wages of sin is death. The Jewish people take pride in having the Torah but it is that very Torah that condemns. Those who know the Law, should know better than any other nation, that they are guilty of transgressing God’s perfect law.

The natural descendants of Israel were estranged from God through their own unfaithfulness to the covenants and it is impossible for them to restore the relationship by redeeming themselves. They, like Naomi, need to be redeemed by one born from among their own people, a kinsman-redeemer. Those who rely on the law as the means of redemption miss the real redemption in their Messiah and are cut off from the very Bread of life. Israel, in her sinful state, is likened to all the other nations. The New Testament teaches that all men have been handed over to disobedience so that God might have mercy on all.
After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. Then the LORD said, “Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God. Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:8-10).

The law, although perfect, is powerless to redeem because we are imperfect and sold as slaves to sin. Jesus is the only one to have lived in perfect obedience to the Torah thereby securing the right to redeem His brethren. As it is written:

“God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:5-7).

Our great Redeemer has not only brought us out of slavery but has also brought us into His family and made us co-heirs fulfilling both the law of redemption and the law of inheritance.

Foreigners to the Covenants

Naomi’s closest Kinsman-Redeemer was unwilling to redeem the property of his relative, Mahlon, when he heard that he would also have to take a Gentile bride because he believed it would endanger his own inheritance. He wanted to take up the right to buy the property but he did not want to fulfil the duty of a kinsman to the wife of the deceased. He may have had legitimate grounds for such fear, but, as the Scriptures now testify, he remains unnamed, while the Scriptures record the descendants of the Moabite woman, including King David and Jesus the Messiah. The unnamed Israelite who was afraid of losing his inheritance unknowingly cut himself off from what became the direct genealogy of the Messiah. Faithfulness always triumphs over strict legalism.

The Torah set up a barrier between Jew and Gentile which in Messiah is removed. Many Jewish people are afraid that accepting Jesus as their Messiah and Redeemer will endanger their inheritance through assimilation into what is perceived as a Gentile religion.

Isaiah wrote prophetically about the suffering and death of the Messiah:

“By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken” (Isaiah 53:8).

Elimelech and his two sons were cut off from the land of the living, but the family name and inheritance was preserved through Boaz their close kinsman-redeemer. Those who would determine inheritance strictly according to the physical line of descent would say of Jesus the Messiah, “Who can speak of his descendants?”, but we read further in the prophecy of Isaiah, “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.”

Paul the apostle wrote:

“It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. “ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6-8).

All the believers in Jesus the Messiah who are born again of the Holy Spirit are counted as his offspring. They are not born of the perishable seed of the flesh of man, but of the imperishable seed of the Word of God. The disciples of Jesus the Messiah are the redeemed of Israel and are a sign to the whole nation of God’s mercy and faithfulness as is alluded to in the prophecy of Isaiah 8:18 concerning the faithful remnant of Israel: “Here I am, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.”

Just as the Messiah’s line is traced back to the family redemption of both Jew and Gentile – Ruth and Naomi, so too, our redemption in Messiah brings about the unity of both Jew and Gentile. Only Jesus the Messiah is able to demolish the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile and to reconcile both to God as one new man. This spiritual birth is the only way by which all men may be redeemed and restored to a living relationship with the God of Israel, who is the Creator of all of mankind.

A wife of noble character

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies” (Proverbs 31:10).

“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4).

The elders of Israel who witnessed the redemption of Mahlon’s property and Boaz’s marriage to Ruth, recognized in her a woman of noble character. This recognition was for her kindness and faithfulness to the people of Israel. They blessed the marriage by saying;

“May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

The Lord blessed their union and she became the great-grandmother of King David and of course the maternal ancestor of Jesus the Messiah. The Scriptures record that it was the LORD who enabled Ruth to conceive and bear a son to Boaz.

The Soncino commentary says the following in this regard:

“The peculiar construction of the text leads a Midrash to explain that a miracle occurred, whereby a new womb was given her. It was surely Divine intervention which enabled her to have children by the elderly Boaz and not by the young Mahlon.”

The women said to Naomi:

“Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth” (Ruth 4:14-15).

This points forward to the Divine intervention and miraculous birth in Bethlehem of Jesus the Messiah, the One born without sin to a virgin mother, who would have the power and authority to redeem His people from their bondage to sin and restore them to their position as heirs in God’s household.

The literal rendering of “may he become famous” is, “his name shall be called.” The Soncino comments that this means that his name shall be on the lips of all. There is only one son of Israel whose name has become so famous that it is on the lips of all – Jesus the name above all names! This brings to mind another great prophecy of our Messiah and Redeemer: “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

The unnamed Israelite who refused to redeem Mahlon’s property saw in Ruth only a Moabite. He failed to see her faithfulness and kindness to his people. Many Jewish people are distrustful of Christian kindness, remembering the atrocities committed against them in the past by those claiming to be followers of Christ. Like Boaz, they need to see the sincerity of humble believers like Ruth, who have forsaken their former lives in this world and embraced the God of Israel and the people of Israel through a pure and sincere faith in Jesus the Messiah.

Ruth epitomises everything the Church should be – full of kindness, compassion, humility, faithfulness and perseverance in the face of difficulty. When unbelievers see these qualities in the Church they, like Naomi, come to realise their blessings through the Church. Just as Ruth played a key part in the redemption of Naomi, sincere gentile believers play a key role in restoring the Jewish people to an intimate knowledge of their God through their kinsman-redeemer.

May those whose hearts have been changed by the love of Jesus lead them back to Beit Lechem, to the house of bread and to the open arms of Jesus the Messiah and Redeemer.